Airport updates master plan, studies runway extension across I-581

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 7:28 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport is updating its Master Plan, and one of the improvements airport officials are studying is a runway extension that would cross Interstate 581.

They say their review of the idea is just beginning, but this week they discussed the idea with members of Roanoke City Council.

“We’re very proud of the good things that are going on here at this airport,” Airport Commission Chair Nathaniel Bishop said as members of the commission sat down with members of Roanoke City Council Monday morning.

Officials offered an air service update, and provided information on airport improvements that are already on the books. But much of the discussion centered on the runway extension.

Airport officials said a runway extension could be an important improvement, to meet FAA safety standards and ensure access by larger aircraft. And with options severely limited by surrounding terrain and adjacent development, the most likely alternative would cross I-581.

Airport Executive Director Mike Stewart said it’s possible. Other communities have undertaken similar projects. But he said the airport is just beginning to gather all the facts.

“It’s certainly something that could be done,” Stewart said in an interview. “We’re just getting into the process. We need to understand what it would be, what it would cost and then collectively as a community to decide is it worth that kind of investment.”

City leaders said they appreciate the airport’s economic impact, and the need to position it for the future. But they also said it will be important to make sure Roanokers are on board.

“We’re taking it very slow. We’re going to look at everything, at every option,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea told WDBJ7. “We’re not rushing though this. There are a lot of things that have to be done in terms of this process, but it’s a long-range vision.”

The update to the airport’s Master Plan will be completed next year. And if the runway extension moves forward, it will likely take several years to complete the planning, approval process and construction.